She’s seen dead people and dead people see her

Mystery Wire

This deputy coroner's journal is full of strange, gory, comforting, and paranormal stories.

feet in morgue

MYSTERY WIRE — Imagine having a job where you work with dead people, all day, every day. The life of a coroner can be challenging, but also bizarre.

One longtime deputy coroner, Donna Francart, kept a diary of her experiences for eight years and has made that the basis of her new book “I’ve Seen Dead People

The coroner’s office fills a crucial niche in every county in America. Its staff get called to the scenes of deadly crashes, suspected homicides, and deaths that might go undiscovered for days.

Coroners recover, examine, and store human remains, but also interact with those left behind, the grieving loved ones.

The work is vital, delicate, and sometimes, macabre.

“It’s like a roller  coaster, an emotional roller coaster because you’re not only dealing with the dead, a lot of gore tragedy,” Francart told Mystery Wire. “You’ve got family emotions that you’re dealing with that are given news that a blow it’s like one of the lowest and darkest hours of their life when they lose a loved one. But not only that, spirits would attach to me.”

Turns out, according to Francart, people who work with the dead sometimes encounter beings who have not quite moved on.

Donna Francart

Francart makes a point to treat the dead with dignity. She says it’s just the respectful thing to do, and that it might mean the spirits of the deceased would also treat her with respect. “I was an open lighthouse to the spirits,” Francart said. “Many that would die tragically, they weren’t ready to die. And so they didn’t, they were confused, they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know where to go, or they didn’t really believe they were dead. And so they linger around, or they follow me home.”

Francart said she has had paranormal experiences at home, at death scenes, in the coroner’s office, and at a funeral home where she also worked for a while.

At the end of each chapter in her book, she gives the read a take-away thought. She said she hopes that you thank someone in law enforcement, the funeral business, or coroner’s office.


Duncan Phenix
Joining me now Donna Francart, author of “I’ve Seen Dead People – Diary of a Deputy Coroner.” Welcome. Thank you for taking time to talk with me this morning.

Donna Francart
Well, good morning. Thanks for having me.

Duncan Phenix
So, Donna, you’ve written this book, a fantastic book available on Amazon, had me hooked from pretty much the first page. A very good read, have a good quick read and easy read. And a fascinating read. Diary of a Deputy Coroner, talking of you as a deputy coroner or former deputy coroner at this point, correct?

Donna Francart 
Former.

Duncan Phenix 
Tell us a little bit about your career.

Donna Francart  
Okay, well, I was a deputy coroner for eight and a half years and what a coroner does is when there’s any suspicious, unwitnessed, or unsuspecting death, we are paged out. And so it could range anywhere from homicide, suicide, car fatality, drug overdose, fire, drowning, so it’s all tragic, mostly tragedy. There’s also hospice cases and people that are in the hospital under 24 hours, then we’re called in. What we do is we go to the scene, the scene is considered a crime scene until the investigation has been completed and it’s ruled out that the person has not died by the hands of another. We pronounce the time of death, examine the body, draw fluids for toxicology, determine whether there’s an autopsy, if we’re going to order an autopsy, we attend autopsies. We will of course, notify the family, bag and tag the body. Lots of paperwork. And it’s like putting a puzzle together, it’s putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to rule out that someone hasn’t died by the hands of someone else.

Duncan Phenix 
And would you at this point, consider that you had a normal job? Quote unquote, normal?

Donna Francart
Normal? Not at all. Not normal at all. No. As my book said, it’s like a roller roller coaster, an emotional roller coaster because you’re not only dealing with the dead, a lot of gore tragedy. You’ve got family emotions that you’re dealing with that are given news that a blow, it’s like one of the lowest and darkest hours of their life when they lose a loved one. But not only that, spirits would attach to me and most of them did not cross over my threshold, but many of them did. And they also made themselves known in my home and to my sons as well. So you’re not only dealing with someone else’s tragedy and sadness, but I was bringing it home with me and it was all like filling up in my head in my heart.

Duncan Phenix 
The subtitle of the book, Diary of a Deputy Coroner, definitely reads like a diary. Is that one way that you coped with your daily job of dealing with death? Did you keep a diary? Is this your diary?

Donna Francart  
That is my diary. You see, the thing is with that type of job, obviously, you can’t come home after you’re done working and sit down at the dinner table and discuss with your family how your day was. And so, I needed a way to process and compartmentalize what I was dealing with. And so I started writing. Not so much like the cases themselves, but how the emotions, how I was handling those, how the families were. But I tried to try to find a positive out of each chapter that I wrote, I wanted something good out of it, you know, like whether it was bringing a family together, people realizing that life is very precious. And so yes, I mean, it was just flowing out of me, the writing, and it was helping me to get it out on paper to put it somewhere.

Duncan Phenix  
And then of course, it reads like a series of short stories almost. These are days in your life. Sometimes periods of time longer than a day in your life. And obviously each one or almost each one is dealing with death, with dead people. But the book itself tells a lot about not only the dead people but how the living deal with dead people and how the living deal with death. Throughout your career and as you document in this book what lessons should the living take away from your dealings with death.

Donna Francart  
I hope that the reader walks away thinking, you know, I actually am quite blessed that I am alive and breathing today. Every day is a gift when you wake up and you have another day because many people or most people think they have that extra minute, hour, day. And we don’t know what our expiration date is, we’ve got our date of birth and our date of death. And so it’s our canvas. And we want to paint it either as colorful as we want, or black and white, whatever works for you, but also to embrace the simple things in life. Don’t forget your elders. Show and tell people that you love that you do love them. And just don’t ever take any time for granted, even when it’s boring and monotonous. Or don’t hold anger, because it’s not good for yourself. And like I said, life is so short, just enjoy every moment.

Duncan Phenix   
And one of your roles as deputy coroner, you talk about quite a bit in the book, is dealing directly with the family of the victims of the deceased, not always victims. How did that shape your worldview?

Donna Francart 
Being very compassionate and empathetic to others, every decedent that, every case that I worked, obviously, they’re someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, or they have a mother or a father, always show respect and dignity and treat them as if they’re your own family or your own loved ones. So it just made me more aware of, everybody deep down wants to be respected and cared for by someone to care for them. And so it just really made me very aware and in tune with emotions, feelings, sights, smells, sometimes I’m over analytical in things that I, my surroundings.

Duncan Phenix 
Now, obviously, the title, “I’ve Seen Dead People” kind of alludes to “I see dead people.” And you’ve mentioned this a little bit ago, you have seen in your belief, you’ve seen that people that you’ve dealt with, that you’ve, I don’t know if you’d say worked with but handled. Tell us one of those stories about literally seeing someone from the other side.

Donna Francart  
From the other side when they’re visiting or once they’re…

Duncan Phenix  
After they’ve passed.

Donna Francart 
Okay. Well, I can I can I share with you one of the stories, well stories, one of the cases that I worked that’s in the book that very much stood out in my heart and in my head, and that was that there was an elderly lady, she was on oxygen and the machine was plugged in. There had been a storm and a vehicle had hit a telephone pole. So all of the electricity had gone out. And she panicked. Because she wasn’t at the machine that went off. So she called 911. By the time they got there, she had already expired. But there wasn’t anything suspicious, doors are locked, the phone was in her lap. By the time I was paged out, and I arrived, she was laying on the floor. Because of the paramedics trying to see what they could do to revive her. It was too late. And so with that storm, we only had flashlights that we’re working with. So of course on top of the thunder and lightning in the background and working in the darkness. We did what we needed to do for the investigation. And then that was let’s say about an hour and a half and then the officers had gone out to their squad cars to either fill out paperwork or perhaps they were calling, notifying other family members, the immediate family members have been notified. And so I was in the living room with, actually I was in the kitchen, the decedent was in the living room and it was connected. And I would always talk to the decedents. Not full on conversations and I wouldn’t do it when there’d be a room full of people but you know when I was finishing up what I was doing and I would I would talk to them because I felt many of them their souls were still there you could feel it. When you’re at a scene you can feel that person’s soul around you, the energy because I do believe that the soul and the energy does move on. Continues on. You leave your body behind. So anyhow, this lady was on the floor and I was talking to her and I said oh, let’s say her name was Audrey. Audrey, I’m so sorry. You must have been so frightened. But I know now that you are at peace and you’re with your angels and guardian angels, and please don’t be afraid anymore. No sooner had I said that and a clock a grandfather clock chimed. Now I’ve been there for like an hour and a half and there’d been no chiming but as soon as I said that it chimed, I looked at my phone because it was dark, right? I looked at my phone and it wasn’t like the quarter after or half hour, right on the hour and looked back at her. And I thought she’s talking to me. She’s letting me know she’s still in the room. And it actually comforted me. It didn’t frighten me. It comforted me because it was it was her way of letting me know. So then let’s say another hour, it was I’m guessing guesstimation of about an hour by the time the funeral directors, because nothing suspicious so she was going to a funeral home, they came for the transport. We were able we put her up on the gurney, and then it was zipped up. As we’re walking out the door, the clock chimed again. And I knew she was saying goodbye to her family or to her home, I should say because she lived alone. And it was just it was bittersweet. And so and there were many other circumstances. And I did put several of them in the book. And they have ways of letting me know they’re they’re connecting with me.

Duncan Phenix 
And there was one that really caught my attention. It was the story of Elsie and you have given her her own chapter. Tell us a little bit about Elsie and your experience with that.

Donna Francart 
Okay, well, Elsie was a neighbor, elderly lady, neighbor lady, and she had passed away. So let’s say about six months to a year later, I had a friend from high school, her husband lived in another state, but she was in town because she had a lot of friends from that time when they lived in the Midwest in Wisconsin, where I live. And so we had gotten together and went for dinner, which, you know, chitchat. And so she brought me home, we’re in the driveway. And let’s say it’s about, we talk a lot, we talked a lot. There’s a lot of catching up. It was dark, except for the moon. It was a night where the moon was so bright. And we’re talking and I’m looking at her because she had driven and she’s a medium. So what she calls it is blinking and I’ve seen her blink, she connects with spirits, that one pupil is small and the other one gets large. But anyhow, so she connects with spirits. And she was listening, but she was kind of looking off to the neighbor, which would be where Elsie lived. And I said, What are you looking at? She said, Well, I’m looking at an elderly lady that’s standing on the steps right there. Our driveway was connected to their back steps. So what do you mean an elderly lady? Describe her to me. And so she did. But she was kind of generic. Oh, she’s, you know, got the shorter hair. She’s got the longer dress like the elderly ladies do with the mumu. I’m thinking Well, yeah, that’s pretty generic. Let’s hear some more. And she said, Well, she looks like she’s waiting for someone. Did you have an elderly lady that lives there or lived there? And I said, Well, there was but she passed away. What would you like to see her? I said, Yes, I’d love to see her. Well take your phone out and take a picture. So I took my phone out, snapped it, went back to the gallery, opened it up. And there she was, my neighbor standing on the steps. I swear to you, as God is my witness. Looking out at the street, of course, I have the chills from my head to my toes. And I’m like, oh my God. Well, one of my sons was still living with me. And so he’s, I’m figuring he’s in the house. He’s got to see this. So, you know, texting him, you got to get out here. Well, she said, You have to hurry because they fade away within like 10-15 minutes. Well, by the time he noticed my text, and he came out, he got in the back of the car. I pulled it up. It was black, she was gone. So then I’m saying, Oh, she’s gone. And next thing you know, I was zapped in the rear, in my butt. And I said, Oh my god, oh my god. I said a couple of words. I said do you have heated seats? And she laughed and she said Oh, well I have heated seats. But Donna it is summer Yeah, that’s right. She says it’s just Elsie. She was sending energy through to my phone and my butt to let me know that she knew I taken her picture. Now I thought this is a little bit too close for comfort. I don’t like this. I don’t want to get too much into that stuff. You know, I have enough going on. And so do we call them night? Actually, she zapped my butt twice. That’s when I was like, I’m out of here like I’m you know, good night. Thank you. Great seeing you. Let’s talk tomorrow and off I went into the house. Well when I get into the house. My head started buzzing. It was almost like, you know when you’re out in the country or wherever there’s high wires, and it’s really loud. I had that in my head and I thought maybe I was having a stroke. I didn’t know what was going on. So of course rather than call 911 I call my friend I don’t know why I did. And she said oh that, you know usually when you connect with spirits, that’s when you have all that energy that’s going through your system and it’s going to take could take a half hour but just do something to stay busy and it’ll eventually subside, which it did in about a half hour. I took a shower, you know, like midnight or whenever it was one o’clock in the morning, but that was very unnerving. But she said, Oh, my husband and I, we do that all the time. If we want to see if there’s a spirit there, we just take a picture with their phone. And it’s there for several minutes. I swear to God, it was there. It was the weirdest thing.

Duncan Phenix  
That’s fascinating. absolutely fascinating. Now, do you, this was an, obviously your first experience with an entity, something from somewhere else. And somewhere else, I don’t mean physically somewhere else, because obviously a lot of them were at home. You also worked at a funeral home, part time or full time, in between jobs, I guess you would say, you were weekends on corner duty and weekday.

Donna Francart 
Well, I had been in the travel business for over 30 years. That was my full time. But then I took a sabbatical from that because I’d lost. I needed that break. Yeah. So of course working as a deputy coroner, I knew a lot of the funeral home directors and owners. And there was one in particular that was looking for an office manager. I thought, well, that’s great. I’ll try something like that. And she gave me the position. And so yes, I was there for two years. So then I was around death seven days a week.

Duncan Phenix  
And you talk about some, you’d have to say paranormal experiences you had at that home, too.

Donna Francart  
Oh, yes, there were other than well, angel feathers, or there were feathers. And this would be in the summertime, when people weren’t wearing jackets. So there were downfield jackets, I would be locking the door the night before. Everybody’s out of the building. And then the morning I’d be the first one, unless there was a director that brought a body in through the night throughout the night. So there was one morning and it got to the point where I mean when I opened the door in the morning, especially in the winter when it’s dark outside, you know, and I’d have to be careful because I didn’t know when I was going to unlock those doors. I’d hear lots of voices or I might turn a corner into, cut through one of the rooms, and there’d be a body in the casket with the you know, wasn’t like walking into a regular office. You were walking into dead bodies if they were set up and prepared for a showing that day. But so there was either the angel feathers or there was actually one day that I was walking from the owner’s office to the front where my office was. Just you know, deep and thought walking and the owner came running up behind me, I hear the pitter pattering on the carpet in this excitement. And I looked I said What’s going on? And she said oh my God, did you see him? See what see what? The man he was right behind you. And she described he had khaki pants on, he had a white dress up shirt, probably what he wore the day of the showing, I don’t know, his blond hair and he was following behind me. But then he turned. And went into another room. I wanted to tell you also in the last month, a lady that I worked with at that funeral home, she worked at a few funeral homes, she would come in and do pre arrangements with families. So I’m sorry, I’m jumping. The owner of the funeral home was so excited because everyone was always still again treated with respect. But apparently she wasn’t really noticing the things that were going on. And this was her first experience. And she was very happy and excited. But one of the ladies brought a friend in who connects with spirits. I’d say within the last six months to this funeral home. This funeral home had been a home for like 100 years. So there are a lot of bodies that went through there. And she said that he walked right into one of the viewing rooms. And he went up to one of the walls he put his hand up on the wall. And she said he started shaking uncontrollably. And he hightailed it out of that funeral home and he told her he would never go back in there again. But he wouldn’t tell her what he was feeling or seeing, whatever it was. And I’m thinking, glad you to tell me that at the time. No wonder I had the hair on the back of my neck for two years. I started wearing a cross and you know, it was just unnerving.

Duncan Phenix 
Do you feel, even currently, thinking about that, is it terrifying to you? Is it comforting? Was it just Hey, this is part of the job, whether it was with the coroner’s office or with the home. I mean, was that all part of you documenting all of this and just dealing with, Okay, this happened today, I’m gonna write it down, and moving on.

Donna Francart  
It got to that point. I mean, I was very lucky that all of the experiences that I had, they were all good entities. I didn’t have that creep. Well, except there was one and I wrote in the book, you probably read it, the one, the man. And he followed us to another home. And then he appeared in front of my son, but it was uncomfortable, but then I got used to it because there were days that it’s like, you could smell that death coming in. And I just like, oh, not today, please, I just need a break. You know, but actually, even about a month now, I haven’t been a deputy coroner, since 2015, still have things going on. I was told I’m like a beacon of light by a medium because I was like, doing what I was told was I was doing the work for God. And, you know, with showing the dignity and respect and compassion and making sure that if someone died at the hands of another, they were caught and found and there was justice. And so I was an open lighthouse to these spirits. Now many that would die tragically, they weren’t ready to die. And so they were confused. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know where to go, or they didn’t really believe they were dead. And so they linger around, or they follow me home. So many of them attached because either I was nice to them, and they didn’t know where to go. There were times that I would Sage or I’d say you need to go to the light, please go to the light. But they were all good. They’re good as in, they weren’t scary. There were, my mom. Now she passed away a year and a half ago. And she also had a lot of activity where she lives. She was in a condo. And then the condos surrounding her were also having activity and I don’t know if it was over an Indian burial ground. But I should, I don’t know if I have this one in the book. My mom was in the hospital prior to her death. And she has a landline or had a landline. So we have family, she’s from Ireland. So we have family in Ireland and she asked me if I stop at her place and then call the family to let them know she was okay. So that morning before going up to the hospital to see her. I stopped at her place and made the phone call without being personal. I had to use the restroom. And you know, being okay, went into the restroom did my thing went to the hospital. She was released that day. So the rest of my family came and we all brought her home and then we were in her condo. Now I’m saying maybe six, seven hours later, nobody been in her condo. At some point I went into the bathroom. And from the time I was there that morning to the afternoon, something had been in there and scratched a peace sign and some letters in her mirror in her bathroom. Now is it only diamonds that can scratch a mirror? And it was just my brother and sister. They’re grown adults, no kids, so there’s no one else that would have been in there and scratch. But she had a little boy spirit that would show up and other entities. And as a matter of fact, when she passed away, I had that condo and I thought, Nope, I’m selling it. There’s too much going on there, too much.

Duncan Phenix  
And you kind of touch on one point there in just the way you tell that story of that event happening is that while you’re taking all of these deaths seriously, and respectfully, you’re human. And so are the other people around you. And everyone deals with death and deals with, you know, death in their work differently. And you do talk quite a bit in the book about, you might say gallows humor, you know, people in this business, even in the media business, definitely in the medical business, you know, they have different ways of coping. But like you said, you always dealt, you always stayed tried to stay with the straight and narrow and respectful but you had other people that dealt with it differently. Right? Even at scenes.

Donna Francart 
Yes. And I and I’m sorry, I don’t know what the medical terminology is of what that is when people start laughing under a lot of stress or when they’re in situations like that. You’re right. I stayed on the straight and narrow, maybe because I was so in tune to these spirits. I felt like they were there with me and I didn’t want them to be disrespected. Yes, there were circumstances that I put in the book that I thought you shouldn’t be doing that and I would tell them, they’re watching you. I know it sounds odd, but they are.

Duncan Phenix
Now, one last question here. Your job was to be called out to scenes, to places where people had passed on. Lately we’ve done a lot of reporting on near death experiences. People who have either, in their own mind or medically passed on, have been dead. And come back. Did you ever come across anything like that? Anyone who could speak physically to you that says that they’ve been to the other side?

Donna Francar
Yes, as a matter of fact, a friend of mine happened to him. He’s in his late 60s, he had surgery, I’d say within the last six, seven months, he had issues and a near death experience. He told me it’s like I’ve read the similar stories where they see the light and the warmth, and it’s so beautiful. And he watched as he left his body from the bed, and his father who had passed and a son, a young son had passed away, we’re waiting for him. And he then was almost to them. And then he started getting pulled back through this tunnel back to his body. And he didn’t want to go back. He told me that he does not fear death at all. He looks forward to it. He said it was the most beautiful thing. He said, I look at life differently now. So yeah.

Duncan Phenix 
Do you fear death at this point?

Donna Francart  
I don’t. I don’t fear death at all. I used to. But with being around death, even though there’s a lot of tragedy and gore, I do still believe it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t think that once we die, that’s it. I do believe like I said that our energy and our souls will continue on and I don’t fear death at all. No.

Duncan Phenix  
So at the end of every chapter, every story, in your book, you give us what you call “My Takeaway”. At the end of this, what is what should be the readers takeaway from this, but what do you think? I mean, Now, obviously, everyone will have their own takeaway, but what are you hoping will come across?

Donna Francart  
I hope well, first off, I’d like, I wanted people to know that, like the coroner, I’m sure many of the cases that I worked on, because they’re in such grief and sadness that they might not remember, remember my name, they might not remember my face. But hopefully, they’ll remember that there was someone there that took care of their loved one and did it in a respectful way. And I hope that the world knows that many people that are in the death industry, just everything that’s all involved and entailed. And I hope that you know, thank someone in law enforcement or a funeral director, coroner. But also people in that profession, I think it’s very important that there is the access to debriefing so that people working in that industry have an outlet to get that out. I also hope that the reader walks away, as it said, appreciating their life and living every moment. Like it’s their last.

Duncan Phenix  
And I think that’s a pretty good takeaway for that. So Donna, thank you very much. I’ve Seen Dead People.

Donna Francart  
My pleasure.

Duncan Phenix 
Appreciate it, available on Amazon. Is there an audio version of this too?

Donna Francart 
We are working on the audio, it’s in hardcover, paperback and e-reader. And then there is also a feature film that’s going to be, screenplay adaptation, feature film, yes, under the horror genre. And right now, we’ve got Gary Revel, who is my publisher. He’s also the producer and owns Jongleur Books. And he’s also co-script writer with Frank Brewmaster. And then Jeff Home, who is going to be co producing and directing. He’s speaking with agents right now on hopefully filling the major roles with A-list actors. So I’m very excited.

Duncan Phenix  
That sounds like we’ll be talking again fairly soon.

Donna Francart
I hope so. I look forward to it.

Duncan Phenix  
Well, I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you, Donna.

Donna Francart  
It was my pleasure. Thank Duncan, take care.


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